Old Testament Survey
Isaiah is often called The Messianic Prophet. He is called this because he records many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah into the world. Messiah means the anointed one. In the Old Testament, priests were anointed with oil when they were appointed to their office (Exodus 30:25-30; Leviticus 8:10-13). Prophetsand kings were also anointed with oil when they were appointed by God (1 Samuel 16:1,13; 1 Kings 19:16). The prophets foretold the coming of One who would hold all three of these offices and be prophet, priest and king all in one. Therefore, He was called The Anointed One or the Messiah. The New Testament word for The Anointed One is Christ.
Isaiah prophesied during the rule of four different kings of Judah. They were Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1). Isaiah was probably born in Jerusalem about 760 B.C. He likely began prophesying about 740 B.C. He was Gods spokesman to Judah for fifty years or even longer. Hebrews 11:37 speak of some men of faith who were sawn in two. According to the Jews, this is the way Isaiah was killed. When he was a very old man, the evil king, Manasseh, had his body placed between two planks of wood and sawed in two.
Isaiah lived and preached during a very important time in the worlds history. During most of his lifetime, Assyria was the most powerful nation on earth. Babylon was only beginning to gain strength as a nation. While Isaiah lived in Judah, Romulus and Remus were beginning the city of Rome. The Greek cities of Athens and Sparta were just being built. It was during Isaiahs lifetime that the Northern Kingdom, Israel, was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. Micah, Amos, and Hosea were other prophets of God who lived during Isaiahs lifetime.
During most of the time that Isaiah preached to Gods people, the nation of Judah was very prosperous. People forgot about God because they were so involved in the things of this world (Isaiah 59:1-8). The rich people lived in luxury and idleness. The poor suffered from lack of food and clothing (Isaiah 3:14,15; 32:9-15). Many of the people were drunkards (Isaiah 5:11,12, 22, 23; 28:7,8). The women were just as bad as the men. They were lazy and were drunkards also (Isaiah. 3:16-26). Government officials were corrupt. They used their offices to oppress the poor (Isaiah 1:21-23). Even the prophets failed to do the job God had given them. Instead of rebuking sin and delivering Gods message, they preached what the people wanted to hear (Isaiah 9:14-16; 30:8-14).
The book of Isaiah has sixty-six chapters. The first thirty-five chapters speak of Gods judgments on evil and evildoers. Chapters 36 through 39 tell of a time when the Assyrian army surrounded the city of Jerusalem. They planned to attack and destroy it. The leader of the Assyrians boasted that God could not save them just as the gods of other nations they had conquered had been unable to deliver them. King Hezekiah prayed to God about the matter. That very night God sent His angel into the camp of the Assyrians. The angel killed 185,000 Assyrians and the rest of the army fled.
The last section of Isaiah contains chapters 40 through 66. These chapters foretold that the nation of Babylon would arise and oppress Gods people. They also told of the sending of Gods Servant to suffer for the sins of the people. Finally, the glory of the Messianic Age is described.
Isaiah has been more strongly attacked by critics of the Bible than almost any other book of the Bible. Perhaps this is because Isaiah gives such strong proof that the Bible came from God. Isaiah foretold many events in history hundreds of years before they happened. This proves he was inspired by God. Critics and skeptics do not want to believe in the inspiration of the Bible. Therefore, they refuse to accept the evidence which shows that Isaiah spoke from God.
Isaiah contains evidence that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Christ in Isaiah exactly. Critics of the Bible do not like this for it proves they are wrong. Therefore, they try to explain away Isaiahs prophecies. Sometimes they say that Isaiah did not write all of the book of Isaiah. Some claim that Isaiah was written by two different men. Others say there were three or more who wrote the book. They claim the parts which predict future events were written much later after the events had already happened.
Did Isaiah write all of the book which bears his name? For two thousand years both Jews and Christians believed he did. Jesus, Paul and the other writers of the New Testament quote from the book of Isaiah. They say it was written by him. There is no proof that the theories of the critics are true. Some critics say that Jesus read all the prophecies in Isaiah of the Christ. Then He organized His life to do what Isaiah foretold. But this would be impossible. Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-23). How could Jesus have arranged this? Isaiah also predicted the manner of Jesus death and His burial (Isaiah 53; John 19). This would have been very difficult to arrange, especially if Jesus were just an ordinary man as the critics claim. The fact is that Isaiah lived more than seven hundred years before Jesus was born. He predicted many things concerning the coming of the Christ and His kingdom. Jesus fulfilled all these prophecies exactly. Therefore, Jesus is exactly who He said He was! He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16-18; Acts 8:37; Romans 10:8-10).
The prophecy that Jesus would be born of a virgin is found in Isaiah, chapter 7. Critics do not believe Jesus fulfilled this prophecy. They think He was just an ordinary man with a human father instead of being the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). They say the Hebrew word which is translated as virgin in Isaiah 7:14 should be young woman. Some of the modern translations of the Bible, which were made by these critics, actually change virgin to young woman. The Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and the Good News Bible all make this mistake.
For centuries both Jews and Christians understood that Isaiah 7:14 spoke of a virgin birth. Nearly all translations of the Bible, including those made by the greatest Hebrew scholars of their age, understood that Isaiah 7:14 spoke of a virgin, not simply a young woman. In the New Testament, the apostle Matthew quoted Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23). Matthew, who was inspired of God just as Isaiah was, said a virgin would give birth. Surely, the same Holy Spirit who revealed Isaiahs message to him, and inspired Matthew to quote it, understood the meaning of the word He used better than the critics and unbelieving scholars! If the critics are true, then Jesus was just an ordinary man who was born of human parents. If He were an ordinary man, He would not be qualified to be our Savior and Mediator. We would still be in our sins and without hope.
Isaiah also foretold the coming of the kingdom of Christ, which is the church of Christ (Isaiah 2:2-4). He said it would come (1) In the last days (2) In Jerusalem (3) Gods house would be built (4) All nations would come into it (5) The law of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem. This prophecy was fulfilled on the first Pentecost day after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2). Jews from every nation were assembled in Jerusalem. It was in the last days (the last age or dispensation). The Lords house, which is His church was established. From Jerusalem, this goods news of salvation was carried to the whole world.
The book of Isaiah is strong proof that the Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Isaiah also proves that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 20:30,31).
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